The coronavirus outbreak has called into question the nation’s preparedness to respond to and mitigate health crises. As the number of presumptive and confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to increase, hospitals across the country face shortages of equipment, personnel, and beds. While the pandemic is highlighting shortcomings of the U.S. healthcare system overall, it is also evident that some parts of the country are better staffed with healthcare workers than others.
Despite current shortages, healthcare employment growth has actually outpaced the average across all workers for the past three decades. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare workers have experienced a cumulative 106 percent increase from 1990 to 2020, compared to a 40 percent increase for all workers over the same time period. Even without taking into account the recent outbreak, BLS projections indicate that employment in healthcare occupations will continue to grow much faster than the average for all occupations, mainly due to increased demand from an aging population.
Nationwide, there are 3.9 healthcare workers for every 100 residents. In Massachusetts, the density of healthcare workers is 5.06 per 100 residents, the highest in the country. But in Nevada, that number is just 2.94, the lowest in the country. Compared to the Northeast and Midwest, there is a shortage of healthcare workers in the South and West. Interestingly, these are regions where many older adults who require healthcare services choose to retire.
To identify which states have the most healthcare workers per capita, researchers at Self Financial analyzed statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. States were ordered by the total number of healthcare workers employed per 100 residents. The total number of healthcare workers includes both practitioners defined as physicians, surgeons, and registered nurses, and healthcare support occupations including home health aides, nursing assistants, and medical equipment preparers.
Most healthcare workers per capita tend to be located in the Midwest or the Northeast. The West and the South have a far lower density of healthcare workers.
This analysis by Self Financial found that North Carolina has 426,180 total healthcare workers, which amounts to 4.10 for every 100 residents. North Carolina’s number of healthcare workers per capita is above the national average of 3.90. Here is a summary of the data for North Carolina:
- Healthcare workers per 100 residents: 4.10
- Total number of healthcare workers: 426,180
- Number of healthcare practitioners: 278,880
- Number of healthcare support workers: 147,300
- Population: 10,383,620
Statistics for the entire United States:
- Healthcare workers per 100 residents: 3.90
- Total number of healthcare workers: 12,764,180
- Number of healthcare practitioners: 8,646,730
- Number of healthcare support workers: 4,117,450
- Population: 327,167,439